This past weekend, I was stunned to hear that a friend of mine had passed away. He was the same age as me, and we had been friends for more than 30 years.
He owned a beautiful dairy a little more than an hour away from my family’s farm. We served on dairy industry boards together, attended conferences, and made a few road trips to visit other dairies together, just to get ideas on how to improve both our operations.
This dairyman challenged me more than anyone to make changes and improve the way that my family operates our dairy and manages our farm. We usually called each other monthly or more often to compare herd stats, milk check prices, weather, and crop conditions. Another thing we had in common was we each have a daughter working on farm, and we would share how they were making an impact on our farms.
My friend was innovative and always striving to be the best at all things dairy. He set the bar high and would say, “I don’t see why we can’t do that as good or better than anyone else.”
He was the guy that I competed with, benchmarked my operation against, and strived to keep up with. We compared milk averages, butterfat averages, dry matter intakes, weaned calf intakes, air speed over freestalls, and even the amount of rainfall we received (and we both agreed that was controlled by a higher power). This dairyman pushed me to think outside the box and achieve more than I would have if it were not for our good-natured competition.
I am truly grateful for the friendship we shared. I will miss our conversations, his competitive spirit, and his tenacious approach to farming. Most of all, I will miss my friend.
Author footnote: Please don’t be afraid to reach out if you need to talk to someone. Help is available at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-800-273-8255.
Mark and Caitlin Rodgers are dairy farmers in Dearing, Georgia. Their “Father and Daughter Dairy Together” column appears every other Thursday on HD Notebook. The Rodgers have a 400-cow dairy that averages 32,000 pounds of milk. Follow their family farm on Facebook at Hillcrest Farms Inc.